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Artificial Intelligence Landscape in Ukraine

artificial intelligence, AI appsDo you know what course became the most popular one at Stanford University last fall? Machine Learning! Taught by the computer scientist and Co-Founder of Coursera Andrew Ng, the class had almost 800 students in fall 2013 and proved to be the largest one on campus. Being part of machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) attracts a lot of attention from both developers and entrepreneurs looking to create and sell next-gen disruptive solutions.

The above fact demonstrates well what's hot on the global IT scene right now. Diverse AI algorithms and approaches that had been explored and developed for decades in the past now move slowly yet confidently away from the academic research and theory to the mainstream. And this will undoubtedly result in the increased number of innovative AI applications, gadgets and services as well as interesting job openings.

We already use AI quite extensively in IT, don't we? Voice commands, smart assistants such as Google Now and Siri, face recognition and auto-tagging, grammar checkers and online translators, home robots and smart objects, wearable tech, even game bots - these are just some of the examples of AI based solutions we use in our daily life.

It's no secret that Ukrainian IT is driven mainly by software development outsourcing. As such, vacancies that our outsourcing providers post on behalf of their clients reflect well the current trends and expectations on the global tech market. "Machine learning engineers", "data scientists" and "NLP engineers" are already sought in Ukraine proving a certain level of demand from foreign outsourcing buyers. As a matter of fact, these new tech roles are needed not only on complex AI based projects, but also on regular software development projects including such tasks as intellectual search, recommended systems setup and deployment, text analysis, etc. I've heard some Ukrainian outsourcing buyers seek vendors able to help them set up and run own offshore / nearshore Data Science centers that will be able to accumulate AI knowledge, incubate and nurture AI resources and transfer AI knowhow back to the home office. Our country is rather rich in such technologies and frameworks as Python, Matlab / Octave, R, NVIDIA, SciPy and NumPy, pylearn2, theano, and this explains why foreign companies choose Ukraine for building their external AI expertise.

Apart from IT outsourcing, AI has also penetrated into Ukrainian product companies. For instance, Kyiv and San Francisco based Grammarly, whose solutions are based on the Natural Language Processing technology, are leading the way globally as far as English grammar checking and plagiarism detection are concerned. Another example is a Kharkiv-based company Scorto that develops AI based credit scoring systems for the banking, insurance and telecom industries.

Ukrainian startups seem to be willing to have a decent bite of the global AI pie, too. One of the most sensational and much talked about deals of 2012 was Google's purchase of the Ukrainian company Viewdle for $45 million. The startup developed a powerful facial recognition and objects tagging technology that is now used successfully across different Google solutions.

Ukraine's most successfully crowdfunded startup Petcube also uses AI technology in its laser game gadget for pets (that is expected to go to mass market in May 2014).

As you can see, AI engineers and data scientists are in high demand in Ukraine now as a result of the global trends and a deep interest within the local tech communities. As predictive analytics, big data and the Internet of Things evolve in the Western world, demands for AI skilled resources will grow in Ukraine, too. McKinsey research says the USA alone will be lacking 140 to 190 thousand data scientists and up to 1.5 million analysts and managers by 2018. Some of these missing jobs will be sourced for sure from tech talent rich yet lower cost countries like Ukraine. And how ready is your country to face the predicted AI boom some day.. soon?

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Vik is our Brand Journalist and Head of Online Marketing / PR with 11+ years of international experience in IT B2B. He's also a guest blog contributor to Business2community, SitePoint, Journal of mHealth, Wearable Valley and other IT portals.